Last weekend, we actually split up to experience some of our bucket list items remaining.
Gabe skied with Finnish friend A at Les Contamines, France for the day. With my feet still not up to par for skiing, I opted for a scenic train to Rochers-de-Naye.
The guys enjoyed the day at Les Contamines, with sunny skies and great slopes.
I also enjoyed my day on the train at at Rochers-de-Naye. One of the things that I love about living here is how much people take advantage of beautiful days. I talked about this mentality in my “Profiter” post, but here are just a few examples of what I saw at the main station on the way out to my day trip:
The reason I selected Rochers-de-Naye is because of its 2000m position at the far end of Lake Geneva. I heard the views were magnificent and you could see almost the entire lake from the summit. Having confirmed sunny skies, I set off on the two hour journey.
I quickly learned that sunny skies at Rochers-de-Naye and sunny skies over Lake Geneva were two different things:
Nonetheless, I thought the ambience was pretty neat with the mysterious cover. Despite my ill preparations of not wearing snow shoes (oops), I had fun seeing the mountains.
I didn’t happen to notice anything peculiar about the above scene. However, when I was showing my French teacher, she commented….”ah, Mount Cervin”. If you look at the pointed mountain in the distance of the photo, that is the infamous Matterhorn. Wish the view was this clear when we were in Zermatt!
Also of note, the summit hosts 7 Mongolian yourts, which each sleep 8 people. The ski slopes are only steps from the little huts, so you can easily ski from your doorstep in the winter, or hike in the summer.
After about 2 hours, I got a little break in the clouds to envision what the view would look like on a clear day.
We are both grateful for the beautiful weekend to experience some of our final must-do’s!
The Adventures of Miss Widget and Her People: A New Year, Another Mountain, And A Gnome
Schwingen in Switzerland: It Wasn’t Premeditated, Our Hike Up Rochers-de-Naye
The Swiss Watch Blog: Gratitude Friday – Ski School
When we lived in The States, we frequently had “Happy Hour”. Whether it was with colleagues or friends, it was common to get together after work, enjoy a drink and catch up. In the US, it is also common for bars and establishments to have Happy Hour Specials such as dollar beers or half priced glasses of wine, etc.
In France, they have a similar tradition, however usually without the discount. We’ve had the pleasure of experiencing them before but while in Morzine for Christmas, we feel like we’ve really gotten a lot of practice!
The first is “L’Apero”, or The Apero. L’Apero is the French bridge between your normal busy day and the start of the evening. Enjoying an ‘aperitif’ before dinner is classified as a gesture of health or well-being, to start your appetite. The typical aperitif consists of : champagnes, martinis, vermouths, sherries, or a light or sweet white wines, as well as small snacks like olives, chips or nuts. A fruit juice is also an alternative to the alcoholic beverages.
In ski towns, the apero has a fun spin in terms of the “Après Ski”. Literally translated, it means ‘after the ski’. Crowds gather at the most popular bars to start the night. Here the drink selections are more broad, including beers and mixed drinks.
Finally, after dinner, it is common in France and other European countries to be served a digestif. Many times this is included with the meal, and is intended to help your food settle. In Greece, it is raki or ouza. In Italy, many times it is limoncello. Here in France, we had homemade apple and pear liquor as well as a hot rum digestif.
While I have heard of “the night cap”, an alcoholic beverage consumed before going to bed, in the US, I typically know it as a sleep aid vs. a digestive aid.
It sure is hard to do this research, but we are happy to do it for the benefit of the blog! Happy New Years Eve, everyone!!
While I didn’t ski, didn’t want to deprive our readers of the skiing experience in Portes du Soleil, so I have
harassed asked our fellow holiday-goers to help add some flavor with their photos & stories.
Our Hotel Tremplin provided two lifts with direct access to Morzine / Les Gets. These two villages are a part of an overall area is called Portes du Soleil which includes 12 resorts with 8 in France and 4 in Switzerland. There are over 209 lifts in Portes du Soleil, allowing complete exploration of this region of 650km of slopes.
Having a central hotel was nice so everyone could break and re-group. Plus, it was nice for them not to have to walk far to hop on a lift or rent/return skis.
There was a hotel above ours, at the top of the Pleney lift. I sat there on the terrace one day soaking in the sun, as the lift didn’t require you to be a skier to take it because of the hotel guests also needing access.
The positive to this hotel is that you could really ski directly into it. However, the cable car stopped at a certain time which would limit your Morzine nightlife access.
The area at Pleney was also where the ski school was headquartered. Out of the five skiers in our group, four ended up taking lessons of differing levels to improve their skills. This is a really good practice for skiers of all levels, to brush up and learn more. By taking them early in the vacation, they could apply the learning.
Morzine offers lessons in English, either private or shared. Everyone found them helpful, indicating about 2-3 things that they learned that really helped their technique the rest of the week.
The group preferred exploring the top of the mountain, where they said it was less crowded and the views were magnificent. Later in the week when there was rain in the village, it became more and more important to ski the top where the altitude resulted in snow vs. rain.
Each day the group came back exhausted but happy. They were very content with the ski area and had a wonderful time.
We spent Christmas in Morzine, France, just a short hour’s drive from Geneva. We were fortunate that some of Gabe’s colleagues and partners/spouses were also interested in spending a joyeux Noël skiing, so worked together to select a place and it ended up being the French Alps.
We couldn’t find a chalet for the group on short notice, but the hotel, Le Tremplin, ended up being a fabulous location:
The hotel also had several restaurants attached and a cool patio. While service wasn’t hot (they were still ironing out some beginning-of-the-season kinks), the heaters at least were.
Our room had a village view so it was neat to wake up to the sun rising and setting on the town:
The skiers had a good time, enjoying a nice variety of slopes accessible from the town. While I wasn’t skiing due to an injury, I still was able to get access on foot to witness some of the beauty.
One of the members of our group even organized a gift exchange so all shared in that on Christmas Eve night. It was fun to open something!
We had phenomenal food, in the Haute Savoie style. We enjoyed the hearty meals, although I wish I could have been skiing to burn them off!!
We also had a nice traditional meal for Christmas Eve at a local restaurant, La Grange. It was nice to have the treat of turkey which is uncommon here.
While we missed being with our family this Christmas, we are grateful for all God’s blessings, especially this special experience of seeing this beautiful area of the world.
We thought as long as we were all the way in Edinburgh, we should see some of Scotland’s countryside. We’d booked a small bus tour, a twelve seater, out of Edinburgh on Grey Lines for Saturday. It picked us up at 8:45 in the morning.
Our first stop was Glasgow where we saw the cathedral where St Valentine is buried as well Georges Square. We were then onto Loch Lomond and had the option of taking a boat tour. Although chilly, we decided to take the plunge into the water on the small vessel. We delighted in lovely Scottish views.
We then continued to the town of Aberfoyle and onto Duke’s Pass where we viewed ‘the Highlands in Minature’. Our uber-short time in Scotland (36 hours on the ground) didn’t leave time to go to the Highlands, in the North part of the country. Nevertheless, the scenery in the midlands was really neat and we enjoyed the unique animals.
We ventured on to Stirling and had an opportunity to explore. While we didn’t go into the castle, we had a good time meandering around. We tried not to fall down on the rock solid ground and icy paths. And, when we got too chilly, we headed to a local pub for a scotch.
While we were continually cold that day, we’ll always have warm memories of Scotland.
We used our last Honeyfund this weekend to go to Cinque Terre in Italy. Every time we take a road trip, we are in awe of the beauty of Central Europe. I wanted to share a pictorial recap of the drive.
Immediately after leaving Geneva, we drove through the French Alps. Here, there were a few signs of Fall but we don’t see it as strongly as we do in The States.
We entered the Mt. Blanc tunnel and emerged in Italy, surrounded by Italian Alps in the Aosta Valley.
We drove through tunnels in 3 countries: Switzerland, France and Italy. Italy had the most tunnels, as we traveled on the Ligurian coast which is covered in mountainous terrain. In total, we completed 119 tunnels during the course of the 6 hour drive.
The exit our GPS instructed us to get off on was closed, so we had to take the next one. We ended up on curvy Ligurian roads in the Cinque Terre forest. The location was so remote, we had to do a little road clean up to get there.
While a six hour road trip can be a little tiring, we are really happy to have had such a neat journey.
Les-Baux-de-Provence, France, is known for its bloody and ruthless past. Known for pushing individuals off the rocky cliffs, decapitation, and other cruel methods of death, the lords of Les Baux are not characters you’d want to cross. Thus, the area was feared.
It is said Dante modeled one of his layers of hell in the Inferno off of the rocky landscape of Les Baux.
I am not sure which contributed to it, but area became known as “The Valley of Hell.”
Gabe and I visited Les-Baux-de-Provence on our whirlwind trip to see the lavender this summer. However, short on time, we didn’t climb the entire way to see the castle & fortifications. Instead, we wandered around the village checking out churches and views from the mid-heights.
However, this time, Mom & I were up for the adventure.
Le Mistral, the fierce Provençal wind, also accompanied us. However, pressing against the bursts had its rewards. The top was very impressive with bell towers and rooms carved into the face of the stone cliffs.
If you go to Les Baux, don’t miss going to the top!
The Swiss Watch Blog: Les Baux de Provence
Schwingen in Switzerland : We Didn’t Know the Valley of Hell was So Beautiful – Les Baux
Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I realize that we live in Switzerland. We love getting to experience a completely new way of life and new customs. This past weekend was no exception, when we attended the Semsales Desalpe Festival.
What is a Desalpe you might ask? In Switzerland, the cows happily live in the Alps in the summer, munching away on the greenest of grassy pastures. However, the cold snowy temperatures that come in the winter are even too harsh for Swiss cattle. So every Fall, the happy Swiss cows come down from their summer home in the high Alps to their lower grassy pastures and barns.
Most small villages celebrate their return home with a Desalpe Festival, literally translated, “from the Alps”.
We attended the festival in the town of Semsales, in the canton of Fribourg, near Gruyeres. This festival is special because of its spacing. Typically, all the herds are condensed in one parade. However, in Semsales, each group gets the individual spotlight. From 10:00 in the morning until 18:00 in the evening, a total of 14 families march through town proudly, welcoming their herd home for the winter.
We got quite an awakening to the procession when parking our car. Literally, one of the herds came into us!
Walking into town, we got to see quite a few more processions. The first few cows wear very tall ornamentation. Sort of like Christmas trees on their heads:
Then comes the more subdued cows….smaller floral arrangements.
In addition to the cows, groups of musicians were also a special part of the Desalpe. We enjoyed the cowbell group:
They also have delicious cheese and meat based foods.
If you are attending a Desalpe, just make sure to wear old shoes or maybe even some wellies. You are most certainly going to step in something nasty.
For a more interesting visual, check out the video footage from our day at the Desalpe: